221. Simpsons Bible Stories

(originally aired April 4, 1999)
Here we have the first non-Halloween show featuring three different stories of a similar theme. We’d get a lot more of them as time went on, with more and more tenuously connected themes (classic literature, historical figures, famous ships?) Now considering past “Treehouse of Horror”s have been fantastic, there’s no reason why these kinds of shows can’t work, but there’s a big difference between something like a classic TOH and this episode. When taking a theme or a specific source material, you need to give it some kind of twist or new interesting angle to make it memorable on its own. Even something like their “Nightmare on Elm Street” parody, which played very close to the original movie, still felt original as it integrated itself so well into the Simpsons universe in making Willie Freddy Kreuger, a perfect match. Here, there doesn’t seem to be as much thought put into things. It’s basically just Simpsons character re-enact stories from the Bible. You know how every story is going to play out the moment it starts. Not that that’s really bad, but it’s not really good either.

The wrap arounds occur during a scorching hot day in church, causing the Simpson family to doze off and dream about themselves in Biblical times. First is Marge, who imagines herself as Eve and Homer as Adam in the Garden of Eden. After that, Lisa dreams of Milhouse as Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt. And finally, Bart has himself as David facing off against Goliath’s son. I honestly don’t have that much to comment on these specifically; there are jokes that work through all three segments, but as I said, it’s all just so banal. Though there’s something that kind of works in the Bart segment. The conceit of Goliath II, the training montage, “A Bart Simpson Dream,” it feels like a bombastic action movie, which is exactly how would Bart would dream, and want to interpret a Bible story like this. This theme isn’t flawless though, since I don’t think Bart is clever enough to come up with the twist at the end (or have his dream self arrested for that matter), but it gives an idea of how these stories could have had unique flair to them. This isn’t present at all with Marge and Lisa’s. So yeah, these episodes are pretty middle-of-the-road; nothing offensive, but nothing really special either. I’d be surprised to find if anyone called any of these three-story shows their favorite episode.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Act one’s pretty risque for having Homer and Marge nude the entire time. …um, I guess that’s my whole comment. Also, why is it acceptable to show a guy’s butt and not a girl’s butt on TV? It’s not like you can see any genitals. Toward the end when Marge lands on Homer after being expelled from the garden, her hair is completely stuck to her back to cover her ass, which makes no sense. Not that I’m some perv or anything, I’ve got ten billion website to cater to those needs.
– I do like Flanders as God, and this being the only situation where Homer would have to cow tow to his almighty neighbor-eeno (“Oh, Adam, you’re too kind.” No, you’re too kind, and wise, and righteous. I can’t believe you don’t have a girlfriend.”)
– I like the “general-interest” magazine People God gives Marge having a picture of, who else, Adam and Eve.
– Kinda clever having Snake as… Snake, and Homer’s line, “You’re pretty uptight for a naked chick.”
– Great contrast of Milhouse’s quick and quieted “Letmypeoplego…” followed by Skinner’s loud and emphasized “Let your people go?!”
– Great bit of Skinner dictating (“Giant eye, dead fish, cat head, cat head, cat head, guy doing this…”) I imagine in Egyptian times it pretty much went like that.
– I’m not a big fan of the finale where the kids literally flush the Red Sea. It feels like something the Rugrats would do in their Passover special. But following that are two great bits, first Skinner (“After them! In the temporarily dry sea!”) and then when they’re flooded with Wiggum, Lou and Eddie (“Hey, chief, he splashed me!” “Hey, nobody likes a cry baby. You just splash him back!”) I also like the very end where Lisa struggles to skirt around the tumultuous future of their people (“It looks like we’re in for forty years of wandering the desert.” “Forty years? But after that, it’s clear sailing for the Jews, right?” Ummmm, more or less… hey, is that manna?”)
– I don’t get the King Solomon bit as to why Homer would want Lenny and Carl killed, but I love the People’s Court of Jesus Christ versus Checker Chariot. Jesus’ stern look as he straightens his file folder labeled “My Accident” cracks me up.
Another shot of Mike Scully’s fucking kids in Jerusalem. Seriously, you can tell it’s got to be someone on or related to staff since they look more detailed than regular background characters. I remember Groening (I think) talking about how annoyed he got when animators would insert themselves into shots. It’s the same thing with this.
– I like how Bart’s attempts to climb the Tower of Babel are thwarted; the two times he throws his grappling hook, he ends up snagging a guard and pulling them down to their deaths.
– Nice homage to Fantasia with Nelson emerging from the fire like Chernabog in the final segment of the film.
– I’d be annoyed with the dumb deus ex machina of Ralph reappearing at the end with no explanation, but again, I think it works as a kid’s dream, and mimicking similar dumb deus ex machinas in mainstream movies. But then, again, I’ll say no way Bart is clever enough to come up with the end reveal that Goliath was actually an incredibly competent king (“To us, he was Goliath the Consensus Builder.”) I’m also not bothered by the apocalypse ending; this clearly isn’t a canon episode. It felt more lazy than anything, which is saying a lot since the episode up to that point was pretty lazy.

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11 responses to “221. Simpsons Bible Stories

  1. i disagree; i think bart has always been much more clever than he gets credit for. that was always my favorite quality in him, that he isn’t nearly as book smart as lisa is, but elsewhere (particularly where mischief is concerned) he can show reasonably close to as much intelligence.

    …well not the bart of the last twelve years, who is essentially a small homer, but that’s neither here nor there.

    • Oh, I agree with that; I meant clever in terms of doing the role reversal for David and Goliath. If it were really Bart’s dream, I think he would have played it straight and kept him the triumphant hero at the end of his action movie, not have a twist where he gets the shaft.

  2. I enjoyed this episode a lot when it first aired. It was like having a bonus THOH! I don’t think it’s as good as any of the THOHs that proceeded it and I think later returns to this 3-story structure failed miserably. But for what it was, it was charming. The three main stories are at least focused and plot-driven, and each part contains some great jokes. I wouldn’t say it’s one of my all-time favorite episodes, but it’s definitely one of my favorites from Season 10.

    • it was charming. not a favorite of mine (not even of this season, really), but it’s so true to this family for them to be daydreaming during church.

      one gripe – why would lisa be dreaming of milhouse?

      • John Hamilton

        Why would Lisa dream about Homer buying a cursed monkey paw? Why would I dream about a world where the ghosts of bears exist? Dreams is dreams. The writers can do whatever they want. And saying that Bart wouldn’t dream about his own failure…how many dreams do you have where everything goes exactly your way? I’m more concerned that Bart got arrested even though Ralph was the murderer.

  3. This episode is none too outstanding, but I do like it. It’s certainly better than any of the three-parters that followed.

  4. Best of the 3-story episodes (non-THOH division) winner here, but that’s damning with faint praise.

    While the apocalyptic ending stunk, I did enjoy Homer’s screams over the German potato salad and cole slaw with pineapple in it… that felt just enough like the Homer I know and love to work.

  5. Homer keeping Lisa out of Heaven is easily the most jerkass thing he’s ever done. Beats the pants off anything in “Make Room For Lisa”. (completely unrealistic that he’d be able to overcome God, too, but hey, it’s a cartoon so who cares, AMIRITE?!)

    Also, Bart’s dream was apparently going for a parody of Michael Bay movies but it didn’t come through in the execution at all. It needed constant camera movement, hyperkinetic cutting, and generic Hans Zimmer-style scoring.

  6. – “Also, why is it acceptable to show a guy’s butt and not a girl’s butt on TV?”
    I’ve wondered that myself for years. The best guess I can come up with is a guy’s but is funny (especially since they’re usually the butts of unattractive people like Homer or Peter Griffin), but a woman’s butt is erotic.
    – “Homer keeping Lisa out of Heaven is easily the most jerkass thing he’s ever done. Beats the pants off anything in “Make Room For Lisa”.”
    I guess, but then, after “Lisa the Skeptic,” I’m surprised God would take her up in the first place.
    – This episode is alright. I’m surprised there’s been no mention of the talking pig in Eden. (“One rib and still standing? Oh, you are the plucky one, sir.”) I guess it’s not too memorable since all I ever remember is the Garden of Eden segment (and a lot of that has to do with the rarity of Marge both being naked and having her hair down) and the ending.

  7. I liked the Solomon bit, but it really shouldn’t have been Lenny and Carl there. The line “The pie shall be cut in two and each man shall receive…death. I’ll keep the pie.” Just cracks me up, personally.

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